Auntie SparkNotes: I Hate My Stepmom, But Love My Stepsister
This is a bit of a mundane problem, but I'm just not sure what to do. My father remarried a couple of years ago and, being the big girl I am, I didn't have a problem with that. As long as he's happy, so am I. What I did have a problem with was the woman he chose.
Now, I'll admit that I'm not the easiest person to live with. I'm outgoing to the point of being loud and a little obnoxious, and at times I can be a total princess. But my dad's wife is a thousand times worse than I ever could be, and it seems that we can't do anything but fight. She says horrible things to my face and behind my back. If I stand up to her she either screams or cries, and I feel like the bad guy. It's horrible. I've heard of people not liking their step-parents, but this is a thousand times worse. This is loathing. We agree on nothing and when we're alone together we either ignore each other or fight. I honestly want her out of my life.
But that's not even the real problem I'm having (although it is a problem). The problem is her daughter. She is… awesome. Like, amazing. It's like she looked at her mother and became the exact opposite of her. Where her mother is loud and obnoxious, she is quiet and reserved. Where her mother is stubborn and doesn't listen to anyone's opinions but her own, she'll actually sit down with you and listen and just let you vent your problems to her. It's incredible. I've never met anyone so level-headed and calm, and as a result, I've grown closer to her than my actual blood siblings. Even though I know that my step-mother makes my father happy, I still desperately want her out of my life, but I don't know how that could happen without losing my step-sister too. What do I do?
Off the top of my head, Sparkler, have you considered that tolerating your stepmother might be a reasonable price to pay for the pleasure of knowing her delightful kid?
Because not only is that true, but you're going to have a heck of a lot more success in reframing the way you think about the current state of things than you are in, uh… [checks notes]...plotting to break up your father's marriage while somehow hanging onto your relationship with his wife's daughter.
Yeah, that's not going to work.
So, here's the deal, kiddo: your stepmom is going to stay in the picture, and that's something you need to accept. There's just no way around it; she's married to your father, and that means she's a non-negotiable component of your relationship with him from here on out. But you are going to make peace with that. Yes, you are! Because even if you can never come around to liking this woman on her own merits (and more on that in a sec), you can still appreciate her in the way that many people appreciate their otherwise-loathsome relatives-by-marriage: as the mother of someone you really adore. Even if you can't say a single other good thing about her, she produced a kick-ass daughter—and that's not nothing, right?
Certainly it's reason enough to avoid antagonizing her, or letting her antagonize you. Your awesome relationship with your step-sis means you have a vested interest in not getting into screaming fights with her mom—which is something you should remind yourself of every time you feel tempted to let things escalate. You can choose not to take the bait; you can decline to argue. Take a walk, excuse yourself to the bathroom, shove a piece of food in your mouth so that you can't make a snappy retort, whatever. Try a few different things! You have options! ...And of course, you also have a limited amount of time before you're living somewhere other than under their roof, at which point you'll have much more control in general over how much time you spend in the presence of people you hate. You may even be able to finagle it so that seeing your dad doesn't always mean seeing Stepmom, too.
That said, there's one more thing—and in fact, it's the first thing I noticed about your letter. Simply put, you hate your father's new wife because she's loud, obnoxious, opinionated, stubborn, and not easy to live with…which is exactly how you described yourself just a paragraph beforehand.
You realize that, right? By all appearances, your primary reason for loathing this woman is that she's too much like you. And while I can't claim to know exactly what that means for you and your family's future, it's certainly interesting, and something you might want to think about in a little more depth. Does your stepmom grate on you so much because she's a mirror of something you don't love about yourself? Did her arrival in your household push you out of a role you enjoyed, leaving you insecure about your place in the family? Or is this just an issue of two giant-sized personalities jostling for position in a house that's not big enough for both of them?
To be clear, this is not to imply that the conflict between you is your fault. Your father's wife is a grownup, and as a grownup, she should know better than to be exacerbating the conflicts of a newly-blended family by screaming at and talking smack about her husband's kids. But since she doesn't, and since she's not here to discuss this issue with us, your best hope of unpacking it is to do this work yourself. See if you can untangle the roots of your intense dislike for your stepmom, and ask yourself if there might be a better way to approach her. (I admit, I am curious about what you're saying to this woman by way of standing up for yourself that would make her cry — and if by any chance you're being cruel to her, you should stop.) And if none of that works, then you can always continue to focus on tolerating her for the sake of your friendship with her daughter, which is a perfectly legitimate way to deal with family members who otherwise annoy the bejeezus out of you. What matters is that there are ways to make things better for yourself, all by yourself, just by choosing to think differently about whatever's bugging you.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.